Reflections on village board service

Opinion: Columns

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By Andrea Button

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After nearly five years of service as a village trustee, I have decided not to run in the 2019 election. This decision did not come easily or quickly but required several months of soul-searching to determine what is best for me, for my family, and for Oak Park.

I feel very good about my years of service. I believe I stood my ground, served as a voice of reason and compassion, and consistently advocated for policies that fall in line with what I believe to be Oak Park values: racial and economic diversity and equity, environmental sustainability, walkability/bikeability, transit-oriented development, and access to affordable housing, to name a few. I plan to finish my term advocating for those same policies and values.

I hope my departure will allow someone with a fresh set of eyes to take my place at the board table. Our community is ripe for a competitive, democratic election filled with candidates who care about the community as a whole and have a passion for service. And while I know these eyes can come from any race, gender, or orientation, I would personally love to see more women, people of color, and LGBTQ citizens on the board. If we want to maintain a diverse community (and I believe we do), then we need a diverse board to represent the many voices it comprises.

I have just a few wishes for the 2019 candidates:

1. Lead from your conscience, not your ego. Robert K. Greenleaf (founder of the servant-leadership movement and one of my favorite political writers) wrote, "Ego focuses on one's own survival, pleasure, and enhancement to the exclusion of others; ego is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat, like little children who classify all people as 'nice' or 'mean.' Conscience, on the other hand, both democratizes and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others' security and fulfillment." If you want to run, run for the sake of serving others. Have a set of values that drive you, and vote consistently with those values. Forget self. Serve the "greater good."

2. Social media is intended to supplement, not supplant, real democracy. Our social media pages and feeds can become real echo chambers. While I certainly post plenty on my personal feed, some of you may have noticed I stopped relying on social media as a leadership tool a few years ago. There is certainly a role for it, if you can keep it in perspective. Remember that good decision-making requires synthesizing facts, information, the community's "pulse" on a particular issue, and your own conscience. Good intention is easily overlooked in a Facebook post. It is easier to throw electronic stones than to engage face to face with someone who disagrees with you. Emotional reactivity is quick and sharp when all it requires is the push of a button behind your own screen, and the resulting emotion can easily cloud good decision-making. Also, 300 "likes" does not a community-wide opinion make.

3. Respect past leaders and staff: Oak Park has a deep legacy of strong leadership and an educated, active citizenry. Most decisions you will be faced with at the board table have a rich history (you'll come to see the patterns 2-3 years into your service). Don't make decisions in a vacuum. And trust your staff — the Village Manager form of government was designed to maximize efficiency and fairness and minimize personal/political influence. Trust it.

Please send me an email at any time if you want to discuss service, even if it is just something you are considering but haven't fully committed to yet.

I will miss the work, dearly. But I feel good about the years ahead. As many of you know, I am getting remarried and blending my family. I have two children of my own, two new lovely stepdaughters, and a full-time job to boot. I have spent half of my 30s serving in this office, and I am ready to serve in a slightly different capacity.

That said, I hope to be out and about in the community—speaking, teaching, and leading on the issues I care about in the years to come. And I look forward to seeing you there.  

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Christina Sellis Loranz  

Posted: September 25th, 2018 8:03 PM

Thanks for your years of service Andrea. You were an exemplary trustee!

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